- More than a fad
- Parkour communities around the world
- Obstacle passing
- Practice makes perfect
- Barclaycard World Freerun Championships
- Monkey vault
- Top figures in the sport
- Sport or art?
- Difference between parkour and freerunning
- Parkour in movies
- Hot spot of parkour
- Parkour equipment
- Parkour, Palestinian style
- Is parkour illegal?
- Parkour as a safe haven
- David Belle
- Sébastien Foucan
- Seeing your environment in new ways
- Making the most of your environment
- International sport
- Exercise routine
- Critics of the sport
- 2018 Freerunning and Parkour World Cup Series
- Parkour at a UNESCO site
- International Parkour Gathering
- Displacement Parkour in Ireland
- Parkour and gymnastics
- Parkour during COVID
- Surge in popularity
- Defying the odds
French actor and stunt coordinator David Belle is credited with the creation of parkour in 1988, but the practice has been around far longer than that. Parkour incorporates elements of running, jumping, climbing, vaulting, rolling, and other movements in order to get from one point to another as quickly as possible, typically in an urban environment with plenty of obstacles.
Here are 35 impressive parkour pictures, and some interesting facts to go along with them.
More than a fad
Although invented in the late 1980s, parkour surged in popularity in the early to mid-2000s, with videos of death-defying runs popping up all over the internet. According to Apex School of Movement, by 2006 parkour had surpassed other extreme sports, such as mountain biking and rock climbing, in Google searches. By 2010, it surpassed skateboarding, proving that it’s more than just a fad.
Parkour communities around the world
Since its start more than three decades ago, parkour has developed into a global phenomenon, leading to the creation of communities, organizations, and collectives, such as the UK’s Urban Freeflow Krew, seen here training at London’s South Bank. The World Freerunning and Parkour Federation (WFPF) was established in 2007.
The main objective of parkour is obstacle passing, using movements developed for military obstacle course training to overcome complex urban environments: jumping from wall to wall, leaping over railings, and flipping off of buildings. Basically, doing anything possible to avoid taking the easy way.
The “human flag” is a popular move in parkour and calisthenics where the individual grabs onto a vertical pole and holds their body up horizontal to the ground. It requires a great deal of core stability, shoulder strength, and grip strength.
Practice makes perfect
Like most athletes, parkour practitioners will often spend hours perfecting their skills. In China, a group of young parkour fans are pictured hopping over a fence using a safety vault technique: placing both hands on the top of the fence and hopping over.
Barclaycard World Freerun Championships
The 2009 Barclaycard World Freerun Championships took place in London’s Trafalgar Square in front of over 7,000 fans, and 27 competitors from 17 different countries took part in the tournament. Athletes were judged based on four criteria: technical difficulty, execution, creativity, and fluidity.
The vault is one of the most important moves in parkour. There are several different types of vaults, including the safety vault, speed vault, lazy vault, dash vault, and monkey vault, seen here being utilized by a competitor at the Barclaycard World Freerun Championships. The monkey (or Kong) vault is performed by launching off with your legs, placing your hands on an obstacle, and pushing off the obstacle.
Top figures in the sport
Pictured in 2004 showing off their skills at the maze of walls and ledges of the South Bank, Paul Corkery (EZ) and Ben Milner (Bam) were known as two of London’s top freerunners. Corkery established Urban Freeflow, the world’s first parkour/freerunning brand, in 2003.
Sport or art?
In addition to tournaments and competitions, freerunners and parkour practitioners often perform at festivals around the world, such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, pictured here in 2011. With its impressive feats of strength and acrobatic skill, parkour is more than just a sport; it’s an entertaining art form.
Parkour practitioners are known as tracers or traceurs. The word comes from the French verb “tracer,” as in “to trace a path.” As longtime traceur Adam Dunlap put it on Parkour.com, a traceur is not simply someone who practises the sport, “[a] Traceur is someone who is trying to understand Parkour,” and to understand one’s physical abilities and potential.
Though the majority of videos you see online show male traceurs, there are plenty of women (sometimes referred to as traceuses) in the sport. “Male or female, tall or small, weak or strong, etc. […] What matters is not where you start from but how far you want to go,” writes a female member of Parkour Generations.
Difference between parkour and freerunning
Although similar to parkour and often referred to it interchangeably, freerunning differs slightly in that it emphasizes “[t]ricks, movement and creativity,” whereas with parkour, “the focus is more on efficiency, speed and technique.” In other words, freerunning is more of a “free-flowing art.”
Parkour in movies
Seeing as though parkour was popularized by a stuntman, it’s no surprise that it has been featured in many popular movies, including 2015’s Tracer, starring Taylor Lautner as a New York City bike messenger wanted by the Chinese mafia who escapes into the world of parkour.
Hot spot of parkour
Parkour can be performed just about anywhere in the world where there are walls, steps, or railings, but some places are better than others if you want a real challenge. According to the WFPF, Spot Real, Lisboa, is at the top of that list. Not only is Portugal a parkour-friendly country, but also Lisboa is home to a parkour and freerun academy where beginners and experts alike can practise their skills and share their love and knowledge of the sport.
The beauty of parkour is that it requires little to no equipment to perform. That said, according to Parkour.com, there are a few items that will help you improve your skills and get the most out of your training experience, such as comfortable baggy pants, a good pair of sneakers with lots of traction, and a multi-grip pull-up bar to practise at home.
Parkour, Palestinian style
Just as the goal of parkour is to overcome physical obstacles, it can also help people overcome social obstacles. In Palestine, for example, a pair of youths practise their parkour skills among the ruins caused by an Israeli offensive near the Gaza Strip.
Is parkour illegal?
It isn’t illegal to practise parkour in public, but traceurs have been known to have run-ins with the law for trespassing on private property. For example, in 2016 a man was arrested and charged with breaking and entering and mischief for performing stunts on a rooftop in Toronto.
Parkour as a safe haven
Parkour in Gaza is nothing new. In fact, for years, Palestinian teens have been practising the dangerous sport in order to avoid the even more dangerous conditions of the streets, as the area has been under blockade for more than a decade.
Parkour founder David Belle (pictured) has worked as a stunt coordinator or consultant on a number of blockbuster films, including Transporter 2, Prince of Persia, and Colombiana. In addition to his work behind the camera, he starred in the Luc Besson-produced films District 13, District 13: Ultimatum, and the American remake Brick Mansions, which all heavily feature parkour.
Perhaps the biggest movie ever to feature parkour was 2006’s Casino Royale. French freerunner Sébastien Foucan (pictured) appeared in the film as bad guy Mollaka, who is famously pursued on foot through the streets of Madagascar by James Bond (Daniel Craig). The scene is considered one of the best examples of parkour in film.
Seeing your environment in new ways
Parkour is all about seeing your environment in a new light. In this case, a young traceur saw his environment as an opportunity to get a once-in-a-lifetime photo hanging horizontal over Qingdao City in eastern China’s Shandong Province.
Making the most of your environment
Sometimes you have to work with whatever environment you have. When Palestinians Mohammed Aljakhabir and Ahmad Matar first started doing parkour, the only place they could practise in peace was in a cemetery. Apprehensive at first, they soon made the most out of their unusual setting, and actually felt like they were honouring the deceased in a way.
In 2007, an Australian group of parkour athletes known as Trace Elements performed in the streets of Hong Kong. Due to its popularity online, parkour is popular around the world, with athletes and fans in just about every country.
More than just a sport, in recent years parkour has also evolved into an exercise routine, one that tests your strength, agility, balance, and endurance. Parkour also requires a great deal of mental strength and focus in order to be able to perform such risky stunts.
Critics of the sport
Not everyone is a fan of parkour. Critics of the sport say it is too dangerous, encourages trespassing, and often leads to property damage. There have also been several reported incidents of people dying while attempting to pull off risky stunts. Still, for all its detractors, parkour continues to grow in popularity and is recognized as an official sport in many countries.
2018 Freerunning and Parkour World Cup Series
In 2018, the Freerunning and Parkour World Cup Series, an official WFPF event, was held in Mardin, Turkey. In total, more than 50 athletes took part in the tournament, with a chance to win a cash prize between US$200 and US$2,000. Erik Mukhametshin took the top spot in both the speed and freestyle competitions.
Parkour at a UNESCO site
In Essen, Germany, a group of young parkour enthusiasts make good use out of a historic site, turning the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex into their practice ground. Zeche Zollverein was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 for being “an important example of a European primary industry of great economic significance in the 19th and 20th centuries.”
International Parkour Gathering
Traceurs from around the world got together at London’s historic Wembley Stadium in 2018 for the 13th annual International Parkour Gathering. The event included training sessions, live displays, and social gatherings. Yann Hnautra and Laurent Piemontesi, two of the pioneers of the sport and members of the original parkour group, were present at the event.
Displacement Parkour in Ireland
Brian “BCB” Kavanagh (pictured) is a member of Displacement Parkour in Ireland. Like most parkour athletes, he has a background in other sports, such as rock climbing and rollerblading. Considered one of Ireland’s top traceurs, he has travelled around the world showing off his skills.
Parkour and gymnastics
Parkour shares much in common with gymnastics, as seen here by a Palestinian traceur executing a move that resembles the uneven bars. In 2019, a group of parkour experts were challenged to try and keep up with some top-level gymnasts, and it went surprisingly well.
Parkour during COVID
After being confined by COVID-19 for months, a group of traceurs took to the streets in Santiago, Chile, to practise their beloved sport. Unfortunately, since it’s a high-touch activity, parkour was considered more risky than other forms of physical exercise, such as hiking and running.
Surge in popularity
Despite its risks, the sport has seen a surge in popularity in Scotland during the pandemic, as people look for a way to stay active while remaining socially distanced. John Hall, a coach in Edinburgh, sees more than 150 students a week at his Access Parkour classes.
“Rooftopping” is a recent phenomenon in which social media influencers attempt to pull off the most daring photo shoots possible. As Fast Company reports, “Risk-taking social media photography deaths and injuries roughly tripled in number from the beginning of 2014 to the end of 2015.”
There are several ways to perform a backflip, but the most common variation is the simple back tuck, wherein the person jumps and tucks their legs in tight. Since there is little practical use to the move in parkour, the backflip is performed mostly for show.
Defying the odds
Parkour is about defying the odds and doing things that seem impossible. In Palestine, amputees Mohammed Eleiwa and Ahmed Abu Daqin defy the odds by participating in parkour and other sports despite their disabilities. Eleiwa, who lost his right leg after being shot by an Israeli soldier, says jumping from place to place makes him feel free like a bird.